J.K. Rowling: A True Renaissance Writer, or Two

The British author has been penning novels as Robert Galbraith for years, and some have achieved a great deal of acclaim on their own.

J.K. Rowling has a dual writing personality. Not only does she slay in the “Harry Potter” series, but she also combats crime in her detective fiction series. Plot twist: The author of the crime novels is listed as Robert Galbraith.

Melding her political hero, Robert F. Kennedy, and a childhood fictitious name she called herself — Ella Galbraith — Rowling used her alias, Robert Galbraith, to write books that showcase the life of a private detective in the back streets of London.

While many would figure the pseudonym to be a marketing ploy, Rowling explained that she wanted to write in the new genre free of the expectations and hype that is associated with her name. “If sales were what mattered to me most, I would have written under my own name from the start,” Rowling said.

Creating the alias allowed her to separate herself from the “Harry Potter” mania and associate with the new, main characters in this contrasting series. Rowling studied and gathered information from servicemen before undertaking writing as Robert Galbraith. The pen name allowed Rowling to distance herself from her other writings in hopes of receiving unbiased feedback.

This alter ego was not a whimsical endeavor. Galbraith’s first book that released in 2013, “The Cuckoo’s Calling,” sold 8,500 copies before the secret identity was leaked by a friend of one of Rowling’s lawyers. Rowling was pleasantly surprised at Galbraith’s success prior to the unveiling, but hoped to keep the mystery a little bit longer.

In 2014 and 2015, J.K. Rowling’s alter ego released two equally received books in the series: “The Silkworm” and “Career of Evil.” Even after the best-selling author’s alternate persona was unearthed, she consciously decided to write under the pseudonym to keep the distinction from her other writing. She also confessed on her Robert Galbraith website that she “rather enjoy[s] having another persona.”

“The Casual Vacancy” writer chose a male alternative because it was the furthest from who she thought she was. Rowling strategically pondered over the background of Robert Galbraith. She ultimately chose the writer’s bio to be a former military man turned civilian as the easiest cover and excuse for not being present in pictures or in public.

As the 20th anniversary in the United States of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” quickly approaches in September, USA TODAY commented on the Galbraith deception: “The [Galbraith] pseudonym allows the megastar of children’s literature a delicious freedom to enter a far more sinister and perverse places than she dared in writing about the boy wizard Harry Potter.”

Although the alias had been revealed, Rowling continued writing detective fiction novels under the assumed identity. Now five years later, Galbraith is set to release the fourth book in his detective series, titled “Lethal White,” on Sept. 18.

The detective series follows Strike and Ellacott as they tackle cases that perplex even the police. Cormoran — a war veteran — struggles through physical and psychological hurdles from combat. Cormorans background as a special investigation branch investigator has left him uniquely adapted to the task of getting to the bottom of these mysteries.

“Lethal White” illustrates a new case where a troubled young man, Billy, enters the P.I. office to hire the team to investigate a crime he suspects he witnessed as a child. The inconsistencies in Billy’s story pose doubts, but the sincerity underneath the holes leads to the detective duo to explore the truth. The mystery runs amuck when Strike and Ellacott get wrapped up in a secretive inner sanctum within Parliament and a beautifully sinister country manor house.

Not only is Private Detective Strike a war hero, he also lost his leg in a bomb while serving in Afghanistan. Her ploy to write these classical whodunits with a modern twist drove Rowling to grant the character qualities of the military people she is closest with.

Making him an amputee contributed to the dimensionality of Strike and capturing the day-to-day reality of living with a disability, which affects countless war veterans. The Edinburgh native is no stranger to disability. She personally witnessed the ordeal her mother faced living with multiple sclerosis.

The BBC show “Strike” is based off of Rowling’s, or Gailbraith’s, book “The Cuckcoo’s Calling.” (Image via Bradford Zone)

The success of the series has gained a huge following, especially in the UK. There is also currently a British television show on BBC One. Originally called “Strike,” the new series is called “C.B. Strike” and is based on the crime fighting characters Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin Ellacott. The television adaptation stars “Three Musketeers” actor Tom Burke as Cormoran Strike and Holliday Grainger. The BBC TV adaption made its American premiere on June 1 on Cinemax.

J.K. Rowling has firmly established herself as a renaissance writer. Whether it’s writing about the mysteries of war and crime or the classic magical experiences in “Harry Potter,” she has shown that there are no boundaries in her realm of writing, even if that means creating an alter ego.

Shaina Lapuebla, Central Connecticut State University

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Shaina Lapuebla

Central Connecticut State University

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